The draft is here! No, not that draft. Though the 2023 NFL Draft doesn’t commence until April, college football and professional football fans can have their draft fix in February. That’s right. The USFL College Draft is here to highlight some of the game’s top athletes. Today, I’m breaking down how fans can watch, how the draft works, and who’s expected to earn the spotlight.
How To Watch the USFL College Draft
The USFL will be holding the league’s 2023 draft at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Feb. 21, but fans won’t be able to “watch” in the traditional sense. This year’s iteration of the USFL College Draft won’t be televised or streamed live. However, fans will be able to follow along in real time on the USFL’s official website and social channels.
LIVE TRACKER: 2023 USFL College Draft Live Results
The USFL will keep fans aprised of the selection action for 10 rounds throughout the afternoon, with full rosters to be announced thereafter. The teams will draft the rights to 80 total players among a pool of 3,000 eligible draftees.
How Does the USFL College Draft Work?
The draft process of a spring professional football league may feel quite novel to fans, as the USFL is the first league “to complete a successful inaugural season and return for Season 2,” according to the league.
“We are building the USFL for long-term success, and our first-ever College Draft demonstrates our clear focus on building winning teams for Season 2, Season 3, and beyond,” said USFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Daryl Johnston.
The USFL’s draft eligibility requirements for collegiate athletes have some similarities to those of the NFL, though they’re not identical.
MORE: 2023 USFL Schedule
According to the league, “To be eligible, players must have been out of high school for at least three years and have waived or exhausted their remaining college eligibility. One exception to this rule is that all Junior College players can request USFL draft eligibility once they are two years out of high school and have not enrolled in a four-year college.”
Unfortunately for fans, we won’t be seeing the usual soap opera-esque trade drama that generally accompanies the NFL draft. USFL teams are not permitted to trade their picks, nor can they swap rights to players once those players are selected. This means that the order for the USFL draft is set in stone.
And how does setting that order work, you ask? Much like many of the novel rules the USFL and its foe spring league, the XFL, setting the USFL’s draft order differs from the NFL’s traditional format.
To incentivize winning in the late stages of the season, the two lowest teams in the USFL standings battle for the first overall pick in the final week of regular season play. Last year, the 1-8 Michigan Panthers took down the 1-8 Pittsburgh Maulers to secure the first selection of the Season 2 draft.
The rest of the league’s draft order is settled in the familiar manner, with the teams that finish lower in the standings picking before teams that finish higher.
This year’s order is as follows: Michigan Panthers, Pittsburgh Maulers, Houston Gamblers, Memphis Showboats, New Orleans Breakers, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, and the 2022 USFL Champion Birmingham Stallions.
The Generals were up to no good over the course of the offseason, so New Jersey has been penalized with lower picks in the first five rounds as a result of the team violating roster management rules.
Like the NFL, selection time decreases as the draft wears on. The first three rounds allow teams five minutes per pick, while the next seven rounds allow three minutes per pick.
Which Players Could Be Selected in the USFL College Draft?
Deciding which players to draft could be tricky for USFL coaches and general managers. Obviously, teams want to secure the rights to the best talent possible, but there’s a looming factor that will impact decision-making: the 2023 NFL Draft.
Drafting a player like Bryce Young obviously does a USFL team no good, as a top-tier quarterback like Young is surely to be taken in the NFL draft come April.
As such, teams are more likely to select collegiate players closer to the borderline of being taken in the NFL draft. Some college athletes may still prefer a shot at undrafted free agency in the NFL over the USFL, so monitoring who commits to which league will be something for fans to keep an eye on.
At quarterback, familiar names could include players like Illinois’ Tommy DeVito, Penn State’s Sean Clifford, or James Madison’s Todd Centeio.
Other prospects of intrigue may be Arizona State RB Xazavian Valladay, Stanford WR Brycen Tremayne, UNC TE Kamari Morales, and NC State CB Tyler Baker-Williams.